What Southeast Asian countries are doing to battle COVID-19

by Jam Bufi
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By Jam Bufi and Shaina Semaña


If you’re on social media, you may have already heard the phrase “flatten the curve” trending. But what does it mean?

The “curve” in the phrase is referring to the decline in the number of people being infected at once as seen in charts. To flatten the curve, governments and individuals must practice social distancing measures such as quarantines and cancellation of public events to slow the spread of the virus.

covid-19 statistics

Image credit: Johannes Kalliauer/ CC BY-SA 4.0

With the virus spreading rapidly in Southeast Asia, each country has come up with their own strategies in battling the virus.

Here is a look at what each of the Southeast Asian countries are doing to #FlattenTheCurve.



Jakarta, the country’s busiest city, has imposed a ban on all public gatherings and advised work places to implement a work from home arrangement. Classes on all levels has also been suspended. All non-essential establishments such as malls, restaurants, and bars were ordered to stop operations for at least 14 days. Public transportation remains operational but have strict social distancing measures such as placing “X” marks on seats.

Photo from The Jakarta Post

Being a predominantly Muslim country, Muslims are also practicing social distancing while praying and Mosques are regularly disinfecting carpets used during the prayers.

Meanwhile, the Athlete’s Village in Central Jakarta is being converted into an emergency hospital that can house more than 4,000 patients. Installation of equipment is currently being done and will be operational starting March 23, according to a report by The Jakarta Post.

According to Channel News Asia, Indonesia currently has one of the highest ratios of the number of dead to the number of recorded cases globally, which is at 8.7 percent. The Indonesian government is planning to purchase at least 1 million Covid-19 testing kits.

As of March 26, Indonesia has reported 893 cases of COVID-19 with 78 deaths and 35 recoveries.



Malaysia has the most number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia, harboring at a total of 1,518 cases. According to a report by Bloomberg, more than half of the cases reported are linked to a religious gathering, which happened between February 27 to March 1. Thousands of people, even from neighboring countries like Singapore and Brunei, attended the gathering, which can be traced one of the causes of the spread of the virus. Since then, Islamic leaders of the country agreed to halt all activities at mosques for 10 days starting March 17, 2020. The country has also conducted a mass testing for attendees of the event.

masjid jamek seri petaling

Mass testing in Masjid Jamek Seri Petaling (Photo: Facebook/Noor Hisham Abdullah)

The government implemented a strict lockdown in the country but is having trouble keeping its people inside their home. Which is why Malaysian military and police are working together to enforce the lockdown on the citizens.

As of March 26, Malaysia reported a total of 1,796 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 21 deaths and 199 recoveries.



Photo shows a near-empty Makati street during the community quarantine in Luzon. Screenshot taken from “Makati Uncrowded by VIR” video.

The entire island of Luzon has been put on lockdown until April 12 – residents are to observe community quarantine, private companies have been asked to deploy work from home arrangements, all public transportation has been suspended, and establishments such as malls are closed to discourage people from leaving their homes. Citizens are discouraged to leave their homes except for supply runs. Some local government units have also implemented anti-hoarding ordinances to combat panic buying and allow fair distribution of resources.

Business establishments that offer basic goods and services such as groceries and supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, health clinics, bookstores, and hardware stores can continue its operations according to a memo released by the Department of Trade and Industry. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and export-oriented industries are also allowed to operate under strict guidelines.

At the moment, more Filipinos are demanding a mass testing with the hashtag #MassTestingNow trending on social media. The World Health Organization has mentioned mass testing as essential to curbing the spread of the virus. This public demand also comes in light of the allegations that VIP testing is being done despite the limited number of testing kits, which people believe should be given first to patients showing severe symptoms along with health workers and frontliners. According to an article by Rappler, a petition has been launched by an alliance of more than 1,000 biologists, health experts, and other concerned individuals as well as 336 organizations in the Philippines that calls on the national government to start mass testing for coronavirus.

As of March 26, the Philippines has reported 707 cases of COVID-19 with 45 deaths and 28 recoveries.



Line in a fast food restaurant in Singapore (Photo from Keshia Naurana Badalge)

Singapore has been widely praised for being able to avoid extreme preventive measures including a nationwide lockdown, which is attributed to its government’s quick response to the virus. Upon anticipating the possibility of the virus being a global pandemic, it was one of the first countries to ban visitors from Wuhan, China and eventually closed off its borders to tourists and short-term visitors, something the country has not previously done before even with the SARS epidemic in 2003.

According to an article by Aljazeera, business and other establishments remain open while observing strict social distancing guidelines. Companies are encouraged to have work from home arrangements especially for vulnerable employees such as older people, pregnant women, and those with a pre-existing medical condition. Jobs where working from home is not feasible should have social distancing measures such as widening spaces between individual workstations or shifting hours to minimize the number of employees at a given time in the office. Meanwhile, schools and pre-schools are resuming classes after a one-week suspension, with social distancing measures in place such as assigned seating at lunch.

While they have not implemented a lockdown, Singapore is still creating measures to minimize the spread of the virus, including the expansion of its social distancing efforts. All public events with at least 250 people are banned until June 30 as well as events for older people, who are said to be more vulnerable to the virus. Singapore has also recently closed its borders to short-term visitors and some foreign laborers.

As of March 26, Singapore has reported 631 cases of COVID-19 with 2 deaths and 160 recoveries.



Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool

Thailand is strictly requiring all incoming travelers from all countries to present a health certificate issued no more than 72 hours before travelling that states that they have been tested and declared free of the virus. In addition to the health certificate, travelers must also present proof that they have a health insurance policy of at least US$100,000 that covers the coronavirus.

Non-essential business establishments were also ordered to stop operations until April 12. Classes in all levels were also suspended until April 12. Public transportation such as buses and trains remain operational, but operators are advised to implement strict safety measures such as social distancing, screening passengers for COVID-19 symptoms, and disinfection of floors and handrails on a regular basis.

Thailand reported the highest increase in a day of the coronavirus cases last March 22 at 188.

As of March 26, Thailand has reported 1,045 cases of COVID-19 with 4 deaths and 88 recoveries.



Vietnam was one of the first countries to develop a test kit to detect COVID-19. The test kits are not only efficient but is also cheaper so the production is continuous, producing about 3,600 kits a day—all for the public to use.

covid-19 swab samples

Swab samples from COVID-19 testings. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Vietnam was also one of the first countries to implement a 14-day quarantine for all foreigners and Vietnamese returning from COVID-19 epicenters. The Vietnamese government provided shelter, food and even health assistance to those who are in quarantine—both locals and foreigners. Streets where a confirmed case is traced are disinfected and people residing in the said street are told to undergo 14-day quarantine with the same medical and food assistance from the government.

As of March 26, Vietnam had reported a total of 148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 0 deaths and 17 recoveries.


Let’s all do our part in flattening the curve. Stay Safe, Southeast Asia and the rest of the world!









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